Many major sports events including Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games and UEFA European Football Championship are cancelled because of COVID – 19 pandemic this year. Also, many national sport organizations like NBA and Premier League had to go down for several months. But the need remained unchanged. Since the gladiator times, people needed spectacle sports for entertainment. For thousands of people, e-sports come to rescue in these boring isolation days.

Gamers used to be creepy, weird looking nerds to most of society. But today, this perception is changing.

The main reason behind this change is simple: There are more people involved with games today thanks to consoles and mobile gaming. At the end of 2020, the global gaming industry is expected to generate nearly 160 billion US dollars of revenue.

As more people know about games, more people enjoy other people playing games.

Is This The Future of Sports?

Die-hard fans of physical sports get really angry, when video games are defined as “sports”. They may be right. But if we define chess as a sport, why a multiplayer strategy game shouldn’t be considered as one?

We won’t go deeper into this debate in this article. It’s hard to tell what the cultural impact of video games in the sports world will be, but e-sports will certainly be one of the major competitive spectacle events in the future.

COVID–19 Crisis

2019 was a milestone year for e-sports. The number of audiences reached nearly 450 million this year. There were already some significant events before 2019. In 2020, League of Legends left behind the NBA finals in the number of viewers. That year LoL finals were watched by 36 million people, while the NBA finals watched by 31 million.

COVID–19 crisis hit e-sports in terms of revenue as e-sports mostly rely on event revenues. But thanks to some broadcasting platforms like Twitch, e-sports world has limited that damage.

COVID–19 crisis blurred the line between physical sports events and e-sports. Formula 1 and Nascar continued their competitions “virtually” during isolation days. In the meantime, e-sports fulfilled the entertainment needs of sports enthusiasts many of whom watched an e-sport match for the first time in their lives.

E-Sports and Advertising

It’s been long since the marketing communications world discovered the power of spectacle sports. It’s no surprise that many major brands made efforts to be a part of the e-sports world even in its early days. In 2019, the revenue generated by e-sports from sponsorships was USD 550 million.

This figure will probably go much higher soon as e-sports is becoming something popular rather than niche and provides more advanced advertising opportunities for marketers.

The technology behind e-sports is the key. E-Sports can be a major medium for programmatic advertising in the future as most of the gamers and viewers can be identified and addressable. As a vast majority of the games are played online, there will also be lots of “live” advertising formats like in-game billboards or special items.

But above all, the advertising world has to shift its perception of e-sports and have to think out of the box to effectively use this new medium.